Nutritional modulation of leptin expression and leptin action in obesity and obesity-associated complications

J Nutr Biochem. 2021 Mar;89:108561. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2020.108561. Epub 2020 Nov 26.


In obesity, an elevated accumulation and dysregulation of adipose tissue, due to an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure, usually coexists with the loss of responsiveness to leptin in central nervous system, and subsequently with hyperleptinemia. Leptin, a peptide hormone mainly produced by white adipose tissue, regulates energy homeostasis by stimulating energy expenditure and inhibiting food intake. Human obesity is characterized by increased plasma leptin levels, which have been related with different obesity-associated complications, such as chronic inflammatory state (risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases), as well as infertility and different types of cancer. Besides, leptin is also produced by placenta, and high leptin levels during pregnancy may be related with some pathological conditions such as gestational diabetes. This review focuses on the current insights and emerging concepts on potentially valuable nutrients and food components that may modulate leptin metabolism. Notably, several dietary food components, such as phenols, peptides, and vitamins, are able to decrease inflammation and improve leptin sensitivity by up- or down-regulation of leptin signaling molecules. On the other hand, some food components, such as saturated fatty acids may worsen chronic inflammation increasing the risk for pathological complications. Future research into nutritional mechanisms that restore leptin metabolism and signals of energy homeostasis may inspire new treatment options for obesity-related disorders.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; Leptin; Leptin resistance; Obesity; Postprandial metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility / etiology
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Leptin